Depression among black men – an illustration of multiple determinants

Performing artist Kid Cudi recently spoke publicly about his struggles with depression. A PHS 795 student points us to an article that examines the role of multiple determinants on the mental health of Black men. They write:

 161007-mental-health2 I Know What It’s Like to Be a Black Man Living With Depression

When Kid Cudi spoke out about his mental health this week, he paved the way for black men everywhere.

I think this article encompasses numerous concepts that we have been discussing in lecture over the past couple of weeks: stress accumulation and the allostatic load, community support and social networks, and how cultural beliefs influence health. It touches on the importance of starting healthful behaviors and mindsets in childhood as well as the powerful position that social media can hold in our modern society as a potentially beneficial addition to the environment that shapes our health.


4 thoughts on “Depression among black men – an illustration of multiple determinants

  1. I think the issue of mental health is especially critical to current public health issues. Too often in our culture, improving mental health is a burden that is forced on the struggling individual, if it’s even talked about at all. A complex history and culture around mental health has, in our country, made it a stigmatized and largely invisible issue, despite the immense burden that mental illness has on almost every sector of our society. When mental health interacts with issues like minority status, the issue compounds; as mentioned in the article, and by Kid Cudi himself, mental health is extremely stigmatized in the black community, making it an even harder issue to address. Letting communities, culture, institutions, and society bury mental health issues but expecting individuals to alleviate mental illness is an unrealistic and dangerous standard. I think the tides are shifting, and more and more, we are beginning to see how important a public health issue mental health is. However, change for this issue even more than most has to come from multiple directions, which is why Kid Cudi’s openness and honesty about his mental health issues are so critical to changing the climate. Considering what we’ve talked about in terms of the social ecological model and having multi level and interdisciplinary approaches to public health issues, having mental health conversations at all levels of society is key. When popular and respected celebrities are honest about their mental health, a discussion is opened and a recognition of both how common mental health issues are and how much we can do to support one another becomes more common. Hopefully, these conversations will lead to a better public health infrastructure around mental health.


    • It takes two words to encapsulate the profoundly deep and convoluted mechanisms of the human mind: mental health. Growing up in a household where both my mother and sister suffered from severe depression, I’ve grown familiar the nature of it. Depression casts a toll on its host – a toll that is difficult to afford day in and day out. Unlike a toll meter, the toll of depression isn’t one that can be paid so easily, which makes the approach of addressing mental health difficult. Especially when we consider the stigma that adheres to the label of poor mental health. Like Nivi mentioned in her comment, having an open conversation about mental health – especially when it’s casted across millions of smartphones – can help dissolve its unwarranted stigma. It takes much more than a conversation to alleviate the stigma’s burden, though. In class, we’ve covered the celebrity effect: an influence that a celebrity has on people to make decisions given that people identify with said celebrity. Kid Cudi was not the first and only black artist to shed his cloak of depression. Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Tyler the Creator have bravely stepped in the spot light to share their experiences with mental health. Since the stigma still exists, perhaps there are better ways to remove it than to broadcast the struggles that it can produce.


  2. Excellent article and comments! As someone that has had family members struggle with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues, I understood that there are biological underpinnings of mental illness. I understood that depression can be resistant to excellent social and economic standing. I currently am training in a clinic in the northwest corner of Milwaukee, the Midtown clinic, and the vast majority of the patients that attend this clinic are African American. Some of these patients have experienced significant trauma in their lives, have lost family to gun violence, have costs of living that quickly outstrips their paycheck, and/or have a lot of serious health conditions and disability. After collecting this social history, I find myself reflecting on “pathology,” and the boundary between grief and depression. No doubt the mood disorders these patients experience significantly impair their ability to obtain well being. I have also challenged my understanding of depression, and what it means for others. One quote that will always stick with me: “I feel like I have been depressed for years, but I’ve never had time for depression. Too many people depend on me for me to stop and work through my trauma.” Even with access to mental healthcare, some feel that they must push forward without treatment due to their roles and how they see themselves as fitting in their community.


  3. This article captures the problem with mental health really well. Mental health issues is a big problem, in my opinion, not only because they are complex problems but also because the victims are afraid of being judge. Reading this article makes remember my childhood in Vietnam. Me and my friends used to tease each other with mental health words such as “crazy” or “mental deficit”. Even though they are just children’s jokes, it proves clearly that mental health issues are not something that are openly accepted as “ok situations” to admit that someones have them.
    Kerianne also points out an interesting point that many people suffers form depression but they refuse to openly discuss or let other people know because they have their roles to uphold. As a big brother, I can understand her point clearly. Sometimes, I do feel that despite of my depression and despair, I have to pull through and keep moving on so that I can be a role model for my younger brother.
    As a result, I think to be open about mental health problem take more than just courage to talk about them. It requires acceptance and support from other people.


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